Hansard: Appropriation Bill : Debate on Vote No 18 - Correctional Services
House: National Assembly
Date of Meeting: 29 Jun 2009
No summary available.
EPC – COMMITTEE ROOM: E249
Tuesday, 30 June 2009 Take: 365
TUESDAY, 30 JUNE 2009
PROCEEDINGS OF EXTENDED PUBLIC COMMITTEE – COMMITTEE ROOM E249
Members of the Extended Public Committee met in the Committee Room E249 at 16:19.
House Chairperson Mr K O Bapela, as Chairperson, took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.
Debate on Vote No 18 - Correctional Services:
The MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: Chairperson, hon members, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, chairperson of the portfolio committee, chairperson of the National Council for Correctional Services Judge Desai, Inspecting Judge Van Zyl, National Commissioner of Correctional Services, the entire management and staff of the Department of Correctional Services, our distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for this opportunity to present the Correctional Services budget to this House and, in doing so, I must thankmy predecessor, Mr Ngconde Balfour, for the work he has done together with his Deputy, Ms Loretta Jacobus.
This speech is our map going forward, on the basis of the marching orders we got from our President, Comrade Jacob Zuma, who said in his state of the nation address and The Presidency Budget Vote, among other things, and I quote:
… we [must] work with the people and our public servants in particular to build a developmental state, improve public services and strengthen democratic institutions.
We have to work harder and smarter to achieve all these objectives, and we believe that the leadership of government is equal to the task.
It is quite clear to us that the President wants us to create partnerships with our people across the board, and give leadership to our public servants and, together, design smarter ways in which to work to create conditions that will allow us to deliver the kind of service that will raise the level of our correctional system to compare favourably with the best in the world.
We must therefore look exhaustively at governance matters at Correctional Services and opt for measures that will provide us with a solid administration that will be the building block towards a formidable vehicle, which, among other things, will raise the standard of work, enthusiasm, creativity and loyalty on the part of all officials, and will clean out all the systems and put an end to corruption.
My first impressions in the department are that there seems to be a willingness from the majority of the officials to help create a new ethos at Correctional Services that will satisfy the orders given by the President. I want to assure those who want to contribute in the manner defined by the President that their commitment will be rewarded. Those who want to be a drawback will be dealt with in accordance with our regulations and the relevant law.
There is space for all officials at Correctional Services to interact with the Minister via e-mail. En route to this Budget Vote presentation, a number of officials communicated with me about a variety of things they wanted me to pay particular attention to. I have read each of those comments with interest and although I may not meet all the expectations raised, I want to assure the concerned officials that I have not spiked any of the submissions. I will find time in the future to interact with the officials.
Allow me to extend a special greeting to those officers and offenders watching this interaction from our various correctional centres. As with most things in life, the future is sometimes best seen through the lens of the past. This is very important, because it enables us to appreciate the strides we have taken as well as understand our shortcomings and better commit to sound plans and programmes going into the future.
This Parliament sits here with a renewed sense of purpose and strength, best expressed by the President in his inauguration speech. It is at moments like this that we need to take a step back and ask ourselves: "What is the reason for the existence of the Department of Correctional Services?" Allow us therefore to answer that question in the following way: The Department of Correctional Services is a critical component of the justice, crime prevention and security cluster. It is also an integral part of our social services cluster, given that it is also about people and society. It is about victims; it is about correctional officers; it is about families; it is about communities and offenders. It is critical that, as we debate this budget, we be reminded of this vast mandate and the impact it has on our security as state as well as the values of our communities.
The Department of Correctional Services is a large institution, boasting over 41 000 employees, and over 115 753 sentenced offenders and 49 477 awaiting trial detainees. As you can imagine, it takes a well-oiled machinery of systems, processes and people effectively and efficiently to manage service delivery in such a department. The number of officials will be increased during the current year by 2 200. In the process of increasing our human resources, we are aware particularly of the challenges we face with regard to equity in the workplace.
Ayanda Mathwala and Belinda Low-Shang are part of the personnel of the Department of Correctional Services who have urged me and the Deputy Minister to pay particular attention to the matter of gender equity in the department. This is a matter in which we will not fail you. We have already raised the issue with senior management. We want to see capable women and people living with disability in all levels of our department, in operations and administration. [Applause.]
While on these matters, allow me to address some of the issues of governance in the department and the Auditor-General's report. The department has moved from five qualifications in the 2006-07 report to one qualification for the 2007-08 financial year. This is a welcome achievement by the department. The single matter that the Auditor-General was not satisfied with, relates to asset management. Although we are committed to pursuing a clean audit report, I must say that it is likely that the issue of asset management will be a thorn in our side even in 2008-09. We will be working closely with the Auditor-General's office to deal with this and other matters of concern that they have raised as part of our risk management processes.
One of the many matters we have had to contend with in our service delivery, the matter of the occupation-specific dispensation, has received widespread attention. I am pleased to confirm that in the early hours of Wednesday, 24 June, the employer and the unions signed Resolution 2/2009 on the occupation-specific dispensation. All parties to this process have committed to close interaction based on mutual respect – even when we differ in future. We will continue to strengthen existing structures to sustain these relations. I must also express thanks for the efforts of our own Department of Correctional Services team, who worked diligently with the Department for the Public Service and Administration and the National Treasury to deliver us to this point.
Together with the Department for the Public Service and Administration and the Treasury, we have established a team to implement the occupation-specific dispensation agreement. The team will report to the Ministers every month on progress. We will also be seeking solutions to the critical matter of attracting scarce skills into the department and retaining them. These skills are mainly in the health and medical professions, which are a core pillar of services expected of the department.
We further wish to announce that we will be implementing the seven-day establishment as from tomorrow, 1 July 2009. We have been interfacing with the Minister for the Public Service and Administration on regulating this matter, which will go a long way in curbing overexpenditure that saw us at the beginning of this financial year with a R500 million deficit, mainly caused by weekend overtime claims. This forced the department to introduce drastic cost-cutting measures, which included placing a moratorium on the filling of certain posts. I call on all officials of the department to join us on this journey and for them to ensure a smooth transition from the five-day to the seven-day establishment.
On the same note, I must thank the Minister for the Public Service and Administration for assisting us finally to reach this agreement with the unions.
We have taken note of concerns expressing a need for budget realignment to better reflect the commitment to our rehabilitation, care and development as well as social integration programmes. Let me paraphrase the White Paper and remind this House that our approach to corrections is based on the understanding that the issue is not the duty of the Department of Correctional Services alone. It is a joint responsibility that begins with the family and society's institutions of religion, education, culture, etc. Of course, it is the responsibility of the Department of Correctional Services, as part of the criminal justice system, to mend the broken pieces, primarily through its correctional sentence plan.
The department's care and developmentprogramme addresses the following matters: Enhancement and creation of opportunities; acquisition of knowledge and new skills; development of an appropriate attitude of serving with excellence; pursuit of a programme for self-sustainability; achievement of principled relations with others; and the preparation of the offender to return to society with an improved chance of leading a crimefree life as a productive and law-abiding citizen. These are all issues the Deputy Minister will be able to elaborate on.
In his book The Number, a book on gangs in South African prisons, Jonny Steinberg relates the words of one of his characters in Pollsmoor as follows, and I quote:
You go into prison on a charge of common assault … when you get out, that's it; your record says you are a criminal. Nobody will ever give you a job. So you become a criminal, because that's all that is left for you … The system, Sir, is a factory for criminals. It makes criminals out of decent people.
This talks to everything we do not want in our facilities, yet it is a reality in some cases. Of course, we do not want our facilities to be factories for criminals; on the other hand, we cannot allow our centres to become places for vanity and be so comfortable as to encourage repeat offending, that has seen many offenders returning to our prisons. This is a very difficult balance to maintain. On the one hand there is Correctional Services, while on the other there is society. The first balance, therefore, is the relationship between the two. When offenders are released from the correctional centres, they must be accommodated by society and be helped to stay away from crime and away from prison.
One of our officers, Mr D Jackson, had this to say in his e-mail to me, and I quote:
I know there are farms that can be used to help fight poverty in this country. With small inputs to utilise our capacity we can help people that are in big need.
I share the sentiment expressed by this concerned officer. Allow me to address the matter of offender labour. The Correctional Services Act requires that sufficient work must be provided, as far as practicable, to keep sentenced offenders active for a normal working day, and an offender may be compelled to do such work. Unfortunately, many offenders are not kept active for a normal working day due to a number of factors, such as the unavailability of suitable work opportunities as well as personnel and security considerations – whatever suitable work means. The Act also allows the offender to elect the type of work he or she prefers to perform, if such choice is in accordance with an appropriate vocational programme. I suspect the interpretation of these legal provisions by some may well be the reason many elect to remain in their cells, watching television during the day rather than working and contributing to society.
There must be a way, surely, where those who have offended against society could be given the opportunity to contribute towards government's projects to create conditions for a better life for all our people. Offenders should be able to contribute to the economic growth and infrastructure development agenda on the basis of government's key priorities over the next five years.
There have been instances in the past where offenders did do some work, for example, we successfully repaired and upgraded the Department of Social Development's secure care facilities in Kroonstad and Qwa-qwa using offender labour. Offenders cleaned a piece of garden at Portlands High School here in the Western Cape. In Langa they cleaned a school for people living with disability. There are many examples. However, I feel that we could do better in economic growth and infrastructure development, and in particular with the building of schools in areas where you have correctional centres. It is for this reason that I have expressed to the National Commissioner the need to research this area and develop a national framework to ensure better utilisation of offender labour for the benefit of our communities, in the context of rehabilitation, skills development and social reintegration, as envisaged in the Correctional Services Act. That research must include consultation across the board to accommodate views from as many stakeholders as possible.
I want, at this stage, to focus a bit on the matter of medical care for offenders. We all know of the strain that our Department of Health faces in this regard. The Department of Correctional Services is not immune to these challenges as we struggle to attract, in the first instance, medical professionals to work in our department. The unfortunate reality is that we still have persons with psychiatric difficulties and disabilities in our facilities, who share communal cells with the rest of the inmate population. I find this unacceptable. Women and children in our facilities also require a particular degree of medical attention. I raised these matters when I met recently with some members of the SA Medical Association. Those discussions were useful and insightful. The meeting with Sama was influenced by our commitment to maintain certain minimum standards of care that flow from the obligations prescribed by our law on the question. One of the prerequisites to implement our programme of minimum care to the inmates is to design a creative way to attract medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other relevant professionals to serve at our facilities. As I stated earlier, we trust that the occupation-specific dispensation will go a long way in addressing this matter. At that meeting we also agreed that we would soon have a round table to discuss health issues in the context of the Department of Correctional Services.
The application of section 79 of the Correctional Services Act has been the subject of some controversy over the past year. The heading of this section in the Act, which reads "Correctional Supervision or Parole on Medical Grounds", is in fact misleading, as this section is limited to an offender who has been diagnosed as being in the final phases of any terminal disease or condition to die a consolatory and dignified death. I have therefore requested the Correctional Supervision and Parole Review Board, through its chairperson, Judge Desai, to review the application of this section and to make proposals to me with regard to medical parole in a much broader sense. This task will include the setting of guidelines for the application of the legislation as it stands in order to ensure a degree of consistency. For instance, it may well be advisable to appoint medical professionals to advise the Correctional Supervision and Parole Review Board on these matters. We hope that the Health Professions Council of South Africa will assist in setting acceptable standards for determination of the terminal stage of illnesses.
Our parole system is not a wanton licence to freedom and neither does it nullify the actual sentence imposed by the courts. The parole system aims to extend and grant opportunities for second chances. We hope that, as parole is considered, particular attention is paid to the matter of victims of crimes, especially victims of violent crimes such as murder, robbery and all forms of crimes against women and children. Similarly, offenders who commit further crimes whilst in custody must not expect any sympathy from our parole system. The current proposed incarceration framework, whilst setting general minimum detention standards for all offenders, will particularly prescribe a stricter regime for this category, including victim involvement in cases of violent crime offenders.
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr K O Bapela): One minute left, hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: This does not mean that victims have a final say, but their voice is critical for paroling.
A matter I want to address and contextualise is that of overcrowding at our correctional facilities. By December of the 2008-09 financial year, 64 870 awaiting-trial detainees had been diverted from our system, and 49 072 offenders had also benefited from our parole and conversion processes. In spite of these measures, the number of awaiting-trial detainees continues to increase, primarily due to the fact that 77% of awaiting-trial detainees do not have bail and cannot benefit from these alternatives. The other contributing factor is that there is an increasing number of offenders serving sentences in excess of 10 years, especially the 10-to-15-year bracket. This is also worsened by an increase of people serving lifelong sentences in our facilities. The effect of these realities is that we experience a significant burden on our ability to manage overcrowding. We are currently exploring the introduction of electronic tagging monitoring for parole and correctional supervision as a possible solution and will be considering the business case for this later.
USIHLALO WENDLU (Mnu K O Bapela): Ungaqhubeka bathi bazoyithatha ekugcineni.
The MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: Thank you very much.
The Judicial Inspecting Judge, in his interaction with me, has passionately raised the matter of overcrowding in the context of a criminal justice system under lots of strain and the impact this has had on the department. The department will soon be submitting a proposal on an Awaiting-Trial Detention Branch to the justice, crime prevention and security cluster.
I recently signed what is commonly referred to as the Bail Protocol, together with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Minister of Police. The primary objective of this agreement – as partners in the criminal justice system - is to ensure that those inmates who are in our facilities for petty crimes and failure to afford bail are diverted through alternative programmes. This is a big step in ensuring that the justice system is not seen as mainly favouring the rich, while confining the poor to a life in our correctional facilities for the mere reason that they could not afford bail of less than R1 000. This question speaks directly to the challenges of the justice, crime prevention and security cluster.
We must not lose sight of basic service delivery principles as prescribed by the Batho Pele ethos of government. We cannot talk about Batho Pele without dealing with discipline, professionalism and countering corruption. I will be holding the department to account on the issue of discipline in the workplace. It is for this reason that we cannot compromise on the need for a professional cadre of the Department of Correctional Services that truly serves the people.
I am aware of the frustration many of our people are subjected to, in particular at Johannesburg Medium B, for example. But let me congratulate our Krugersdorp Centre, which has developed such a high sense of ubuntu in dealing with people. The centre has developed a system to manage visits. This is a fine art, and theirs is branded as the best practice model of the Department of Correctional Services. We will ensure that this best practice is rolled out to other centres across the country.
The department has committed to opening several new and renovated facilities in this financial year. In his speech to this House last year, my predecessor promised to deliver on the Kimberley Correctional Centre. Unfortunately, this delivery was hampered by certain hurdles. The department has assured me that the Kimberley Correctional Centre will be finalised and opened for utilisation before the end of this year – in fact, they said September. I have been interacting with my counterpart, the hon Minister of Public Works, Minister Doidge, to ensure that this indeed happens.
On this note, hon members, you will also recall that there is a process of building additional public-private partnership, or PPP, facilities, over and above the two existing ones in Mangaung and Makhado. The procurement processes for these facilities were initiated in 2008. I must state, however, that I will also be looking at the whole philosophy of PPPs for correctional facilities going into the future. There is a need to engage critically with the trade-offs that come with PPPs and the responsibility of the state in terms of the spirit of the White Paper.
The task of Correctional Services is by no means a simple one, nor a challenge for the fainthearted. This will be evident, not only in how the Department of Correctional Services treats those who are the most vulnerable, but also those who have wronged.
As we gather here on the 33rd anniversary of 16 June, we must, as the Department of Correctional Services, state that more needs to be done and can be done to address the high numbers of youth found at our facilities. Youth are indeed very vulnerable and many find themselves sucked into a life of crime easily as they contend with a range of issues and challenges facing them in our communities. These challenges range from substance abuse to serious crimes.
A matter of special concern for inmates, especially the youth, is the constant threat of being sucked into gang life, especially in the Western Cape - it deserves particular mention. In many respects gangs have become a parallel bureaucracy, fuelled by an insidious relationship between corrupt officials and offenders, with the lifeline provided by a willing community network in the process of smuggling contraband and creating its own forms of justice. The gangs in our facilities are a bureaucracy with its own monopoly of power, and they are an extension and reflection of the gangs in our communities. It is these gangs that often turn young offenders into hardened criminals by the time they leave our facilities.
As a department we are in a better position to understand the rallying call "Together we can do more". Indeed, we fully understand when the President says: "As part of building a responsive, interactive and effective government, we must strengthen our partnerships with society." Part of our interaction with society is to build those partnerships and have long-term relations with various civil society, community-based and faith-based organisations, as well as the business sector. Some of these have relations that span over years. Some of them have invested millions of rands in partnership programmes with the department. I must mention in this regard the Phaphama alternative to violence programme and the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders, Nicro. There are many others worth mentioning, but the list would then be too long for our purpose today.
We also remain committed to regional partnerships on the continent of Africa and beyond, in keeping with the President's observation that working with Africa and the rest of the world, we would pursue African advancement and enhanced international co-operation.
I must mention, hon members, that it is my intention to initiate bilaterals with our members within the SADC region, so that we can see if the plus-minus 7 000 inmates who are foreigners in our country cannot go back and serve their sentences in their countries of origin. This is a matter that has been raised within SADC, that there should be a protocol that determines the way forward on the matter. But the protocol will take long to design. So our plan is to quickly initiate discussions, in particular with Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and get as many as possible of these people to go and serve their senteces. Of course we must be assured that these people will remain in incarceration.
The budget that I am putting before this House for adoption is expected to grow at an average nominal rate of 13,6%, from R12,3 billion in 2008-09 to R18,1 billion in 2011-12. The implementation of the seven-day establishment allocation for the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework is R300 million in each year - inflation-related adjustments on compensation of R1,2 billion over the MTEF. The capital contribution to PPP correctional facilities of R2,9 billion in 2011-12 for the five new correctional facilities will provide 15 000 additional bed spaces by 2011.
Of course, the history of the department is unpleasant, as we all know. Rewriting that history will require input from all of us in this House and beyond Parliament's walls.
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr K O Bapela): Minister, this is the last minute of your last ten minutes which you were supposed to use later. [Interjections.] Order, hon members!
The MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: Quoting from the President's speech once more, let me say:
We also want to work with all political parties, all sectors …
Even though you are heckling me now –
… and all our public servants to build a government that is responsive, interactive and effective.
If we work together, we shall do more to meet our mandate.
As I conclude, I must express my appreciation for the good co-operation I have had from Judges Van Zyl and Desai. I will work towards strengthening these ties and I must state that some of the issues we have raised here are as a result of the insight they provided me with in our initial interactions when I started in this position. I also thank the Deputy Minister, the chairperson of the portfolio committee and hon members of the portfolio committee. Last, but not least, I want to thank my family for the support they have given me in the five years I was deployed as Minister in the Department of Home Affairs. I am now in the Department of Correctional Services … [Interjections.] - I don't know which one is worse - and I still appreciate the motivation and the support that you continue to give me, particularly my two boys who are here, who have literally grown without a mother. Thank you. [Applause.]
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr K O Bapela): Order! Minister, your ten minutes for reply to the debate has also been exhausted, but we will go along with the debate in this particular fashion. Also, to apologise that, when the screen were rolling down there was that noise. After your picture appeared on the screen, somebody from the floor said: "You now look beautiful." You have always been beautiful. I don't know why they said so. Your husband and family there are witnesses. Lastly, hon members, we have here today departmental officials and correctional officers from the various Correctional Services centres. We have other guests right at the back. I just wanted to acknowledge your presence and say:
Welcome! [Applause.] Those are our traditional doctors.
Mr C T FROLICK: Chairperson, on a point of order in terms of the speaking time for the hon Minister at the end of the debate: We do have a speakers' list in front of us, where the ANC has kindly donated time to the smaller parties. We reserve the right to reclaim that time if it is not used, for the Minister to close the debate. [Interjections.]
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr K O Bapela): Hon members, I feel that is an arrangement outside of the Extended Public Committee. The Whippery can discuss those issues in the meantime and inform the Table accordingly.
Mr V G SMITH
The MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES
Mr V G SMITH: Chairperson, friends and guests, hon members, comrades, the stated mission of the Department of Correctional Services is to protect and maintain a just, peaceful and safe society by enforcing court-imposed sentences and detaining inmates in safe custody whilst maintaining their human dignity and developing a sense of social responsibility. It is also the department's goal to reform the system to rehabilitation rather than retribution.
Towards these ends the department's budget has increased from approximately R1 billion in the 1991-92 financial year to R13,2 billion in the current financial year. Included in the government's nine priority areas that informed the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement is the creation of jobs; investment in human capacity, especially skills development; combating crime; and investment in the productive capacity of the state.
In light of the current economic meltdown it becomes even more important for government to ensure that there is maximum value for money in all its programmes.
At the end of March 2008 South African prisons had a capacity to accommodate 114 800 offenders, an increase of approximately 20 000 over the past 14 years. Clearly, the slow pace of improving the state's capacity to accommodate offenders, further pressurised by the call to improve the strategy to combat crime, will have a direct bearing on the already inhumane situation of high overcrowding.
At the same time that accommodation capacity grew by 20 000, the offender population grew by 54 957 inmates. This scenario means an inmate population that exceeds the accommodation capacity by more than 50 000.
The hard truth, Chairperson, is that whilst we welcome the building of modern facilities to better address the challenges of improving service delivery, the strategy of government building more facilities alone cannot work, and it could be argued that there might be other, more effective ways of dealing with overcrowding.
Even taking into consideration that there will be an additional facility available in Kimberley, as the Minister has just said, that will house an additional 30 000 inmates, the reality is that the battle to eradicate the chronic overcrowding must be multifaceted. Overcrowding of this nature flies in the face of the department's stated goal of maintaining human dignity and a sense of social responsibility.
We believe that in order to address this unsatisfactory situation, the government departments in the justice and protection services cluster specifically, and government as a collective must, amongst other things, deal decisively and urgently with the fact that we are sitting with 52 662 awaiting-trial detainees being held together with sentenced offenders.
Furthermore, it cannot be correct, Minister, that almost 8 000 detainees are being incarcerated purely because they cannot afford bail of less than R1 000, and yet we are faced with a problem of overcrowding. Those offenders that have been found guilty of minor offences should seriously be considered for an alternative sentence rather than being locked away in an already overcrowded environment.
At this point, Chair, we want to reiterate that those offenders guilty of serious crimes such as murder, violence and rape must be detained. We are not here arguing for a situation of being soft on criminals. I am arguing that as a nation there is more value for money in focusing on rehabilitation and social reintegration than there is in the continued detention of offenders guilty of petty crimes.
It is therefore my conviction that the bigger portion of the department's budget should be prioritised in areas of development and care rather than on more facilities that are very costly to build, to maintain and to staff.
Chairperson, of the more than 110 000 sentenced offenders approximately 9 000 have been sentenced to life imprisonment. This means that of the current inmate population more than 100 000 will be released from detention at some point. It therefore becomes very important that, in anticipation of this eventuality, emphasis must be placed on preparing the offender to adjust to life outside of prison, as well as preparing society at large to accommodate and assist in ensuring that the reoccurrence of offenders finding themselves in conflict with the law is reduced.
The current rate of inmates actively engaged in skills development and educational programmes whilst detained has to be improved drastically. Current projections of corrections sentence plans for inmates sentenced for periods longer than two years stand at 2 800 and only a further 2 800 is planned for the 2009-10 financial year.
At this rate it is hard to imagine a time when the majority of sentenced offenders will have a structured plan to inform the needs required for effective rehabilitation. The department must do more in this regard, and not just more, but more at a much quicker pace.
Similarly, society has a responsibility to do more. It does not help that once an offender has been released, the stigma of being an ex-offender impedes the search of finding meaningful employment regardless of the skills and education acquired whilst detained. Employers, including business, government departments, parastatals and government agencies, have a responsibility to assist in this regard. Communities, family members and even the victims of crime must be engaged and educated on the necessity of accepting ex-offenders back within society.
To effectively break the cycle of crime and repeat offending all South Africans have to take a more active and constructive stance in the successful reintegration of ex-offenders. It is only when we succeed in this initiative that we can truly dream of a better South Africa for all.
We want to make a strong call to government that time spent in prison should not be a holiday paid for with taxpayers' money. [Applause.] Inmates must, as far as is possible, be engaged in contributing towards subsidising their stay in prison. The current cost per inmate is almost R200 per day - per year it will amount to about R7,3 billion, if we take 100 000 inmates.
The projected revenue from sales of goods and services produced by the department can be greatly improved by the operating of factories using inmate labour. Offenders should be used in agricultural and community service programmes where feasible. Not only will this assist in cost saving, but offenders who are productive during the day instead of being locked up in cells will also alleviate the overcrowding problem, as space will only be needed for sleeping rather than being utilised by offenders just sitting around.
Inmates sitting around watching television programmes the whole day instead of being actively engaged in furthering their education or learning skills, or being productively engaged in generating revenue for the department, does a disservice to both the department and the individual inmate.
This proposal talks directly to government's priority area of investment in the productive capacity of the state, as well as the department's mission of ensuring the restoration of human dignity and responsibility of offenders.
However, at the centre of achieving all the noble objectives as presented is a sound administrative and financial control policy framework, dedicated employees from the director-general level to the lowest, and firm and decisive political leadership.
The Department of Correctional Services has received unflattering audit reports for the past five years. We however welcome the drastic improvements in respect of the recent Auditor-General's report. We want to state that we are still concerned that there are far too many incidents of employees implicated in aiding and abetting wrongdoing within the department.
It is our view that the disciplinary processes must be improved, thereby avoiding the situation of long suspensions with pay. Vacant posts, especially in critical and specialised areas, must be filled as soon as possible. The filling of vacancies should result in the reduced need to contract consultants, estimated at about R178 million for the 2009-10 financial year, and the practice of outsourcing, to the tune of R365 million for the 2009-10 financial year.
The lack of capacity and/or ill-trained members of staff contributes greatly to the Auditor-General expressing qualifications in his audit opinion with regard to the department's ability to manage its finances.
In the spirit of a consultative Parliament and as a Parliament that is true to the declaration that the people shall govern, we have consulted widely with many of the department's stakeholders in our consideration of this budget. The committee will continue to engage all stakeholders on a regular basis to share experiences and draw on their wisdom in an effort to ensure effective oversight.
Chairperson, the message from the President was very clear. Parliament can no longer afford to turn a blind eye when cabinet Ministers and high-ranking government officials fail to deliver. The practice of some within Parliament of shying away from constructive criticism of the executive is inconsistent with our determination to improve service delivery and the quality of life of all South Africans.
No one will disagree that the department undoubtedly faces many challenges and hurdles. Together, government, Parliament and the broader civil society formations can do more towards the achievement of the department's vision and mission. We, as the committee, will contribute our fair share; we humbly request all stakeholders to do likewise. Failure to deliver is not an option available to any of us.
Notwithstanding the observations and suggestions that we have just spoken to, the ANC supports the adoption of the department's budget. Enkosi. [Thank you.]
Mr J SELFE
Mr V G SMITH
Mr J SELFE: Chairperson, Minister and Deputy Minister, the Department of Correctional Services plays a crucial but often underappreciated role in the criminal justice system. For many people, the prisons are simply a dumping ground for people we don't want on our streets or in our neighbourhoods. That is why, for so long, our prisons simply warehoused offenders, released them and waited for them to re-offend.
The White Paper on Corrections changed the orientation of the department. The Department of Correctional Services is now expected to keep inmates, many of whom are violent sociopaths, in secure conditions, to correct their offending behaviour, to rehabilitate them and to reintegrate them back into a society that is reluctant to welcome ex-convicts into our homes and our workplaces.
This is an almost impossible mandate. Yet thousands of officials perform this task willingly, with dedication and in extremely dangerous conditions. Yes, there are some officials who are corrupt, and who exceed their authority, but the vast majority of officials go above and beyond the call of duty. To them we say: Thank you for everything that you do. [Applause.] Thanks must also go to those who support the department's core mandate, the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons, the national council, the research institutes and nongovernmental organisations.
Even so, it is sad but true that, at the moment, an offender is likely to emerge more criminalised from prison than when he or she was first admitted. That is because the cells are overcrowded, there are not enough rehabilitative staff for the volumes of inmates, and the design of the majority of prisons is not geared to rehabilitation. The consequence is that many inmates look to the prison gangs for protection and guidance; those that don't are brutalised in ways we don't talk about in polite society.
Because this is the case, the recidivism rate is depressingly high. The crimes for which readmitted offenders are convicted tend to be more serious than their first offences. Those serving mandatory minimum sentences increase by the year. Forty-seven percent of offenders are serving sentences of 10 years or more in prison. It is possible to break this vicious cycle, and the White Paper recognises what needs to be done. Unfortunately, the department is painfully slow in implementing what needs to be changed. It talks about a 30-year period for implementation of the White Paper.
New-generation prisons, first announced in 2002, are still to be built, while the commissioning date of the Kimberley prison, which the Minister referred to, the only one actually under construction, keeps being delayed. We need answers why this is the case.
More serious, in our view, is the fact that there is a profound disjuncture between the stated aims of the department to rehabilitation and reintegration, and the resources that are allocated to programmes that would make this possible. This year, 3,22% of the budget is allocated to social reintegration, and 3,39% to development, compared to 33,43% allocated to security.
It does not take 30 years to realign a budget. This can happen over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period. But even now, we see no willingness to do so. The vast bulk of resources are allocated to security, to expensive fences and IT systems, and to increase bed capacity. Can we honestly say that we are doing much more at the moment than simply warehousing offenders?
We need to take a radical approach to overcoming these challenges. Building new prisons is necessary, but the design of these prisons must make it possible, no obligatory for prisoners to work. The centrepiece of DA policy is that prisons work where prisoners work. As existing facilities are upgraded, they should be redesigned to provide classrooms and workshops. When we pay for expensive fences, these must surround agricultural ground in which prisoners should grow vegetables and raise livestock to feed themselves and the poor communities that live around them.
Moreover, where this is possible, teams of inmates should be taken out into the community, to paint schools, maintain cemeteries, clear alien vegetation, remove graffiti and pick up rubbish. The offenders must pay back to society what they have taken away from society. Making prisoners work has many advantages: it gives them back a degree of dignity; it can help to promote self-sufficiency and reduce costs; it can impart skills that can make reintegration easier; it keeps inmates busy and reduces the grip of the gangs; and it can make released offenders more welcome back in their communities. It is restorative justice in action.
But the moment, only 20 174 inmates work, out of an average daily sentenced population of 115 753. We are interested in what the Minister said about the research to be undertaken by the National Commissioner, but we will be watching this aspect very closely indeed.
But even this is less than ideal. We also need to try, to the extent possible and responsible, to reduce the inflow into prison. Not everybody who offends belongs in prison, and this applies in particular to young, first-time and nonviolent offenders. For appropriate offenders, suspended sentences linked to community service will be much more beneficial than incarceration, with the additional benefit of reducing overcrowding and reducing costs. Yet our prisons are full of inmates who are serving sentences for shoplifting and cell phone theft.
Magistrates will continue to be reluctant to hand down noncustodial sentences for as long as the Department of Correctional Services is not able to keep track of probationers. This requires resources shifting from corrections to social reintegration; it requires smart management; and it requires the co-operation of other spheres of government to create the work opportunities for those doing community service. It is also essential to have tracking or tagging devices with which we can monitor the movements of probationers and parolees.
Over the past five years, the Department of Correctional Services has failed to make much progress in these critical areas. It was presided over by a person whose relegation to the back benches is richly deserved. [Laughter.] During his watch, medical parole was given to Schabir Shaik in circumstances that undermined the credibility of the parole system as a whole. During his watch the Department of Correctional Services battled with successive qualified audits. It awarded controversial contracts in ways that are difficult to define in law. It allowed Annanias Mathe to walk out of one of the most secure prisons in the country. It failed to make the quantum leap that was required, and then fired the one man, Vernie Petersen, who had the courage and insight to point this out.
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr K O Bapela): Please mind your time.
Mr J SELFE: Madam Minister, you are new to the post you now occupy, as is the National Commissioner. We can hold neither of you accountable for the mess you have inherited, but we do expect you to sort it out. We will support you when you make the right choices, but we will be very harsh if you repeat the mistakes of the incompetent you are replacing. I thank you. [Applause.]
Ms B C BLAAI
Mr J SELFE
Ms B C BLAAI: Hon Chairperson, hon Minister, hon Deputy Minister, Members of Parliament, on behalf of Cope, I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on her appointment as the new Minister of Correctional Services. I have no doubt in my mind that, given her experience and the lessons learnt from the past, she is capable of carrying us through the challenges facing this department. Definitely, this department will require a complete focus of her attention.
If ever there was a department in need of stern correctional measures and rehabilitation, it is the Department of Correctional Services. In fact, given the information at our disposal, the department can be correctly referred to as the "department of incorrect services".
The situation in the department is that serious corruption is rampant and vacancies are extensive. Lack of compliance is routine; internal controls are lacking; record-keeping in respect of supply chain management processes is shoddy; the assets register is not up to date; and millions of rands are unaccounted.
The hand-over report of the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services highlighted a number of unresolved matters, including the lack of accountability to the portfolio committee and irregularities with Public Service rules and regulations. The following matters were highlighted.
The report notes the department's disregard of the constitutional requirement to be fully accountable to the portfolio committee, as witnessed in the redeployment of Mr V Petersen, notwithstanding the position of the portfolio committee. A contract was awarded to Bosasa to cater for seven correctional services centres while the matter was still being considered by the portfolio committee. the department shows unwillingness to provide the portfolio committee with timely and accurate information, especially with regard to break-outs from prison. The portfolio committee went so far as to declare that it was of the opinion that important information had been withheld. This presents a constitutional dilemma.
The report notes failure to furnish the portfolio committee with a progress report on the high-level public servant suspensions that took place in September 2008, which were only announced by the then National Commissioner on 21 October 2008.
The report also notes not following proper procedures and blatantly ignoring the findings of the National Treasury and the Department of Public Works task team, which recommended an immediate and thorough feasibility study in order to consider cost escalation factors as well as the differences between public and private prisons.
The report further notes not ensuring that all officials in the department have gone through the vetting process as required by Public Service regulations.
There's a need to thoroughly scrutinise the role of the regional commissioner of the Western Cape, Patrick Gillingham, in respect of the awarding of a number of tenders.
With regard to the purpose of medical parole, hon Minister, you mentioned the review of section 79 of Act 111 of 1998. I don't think, Minister, we should just mention this – we should do it.
Kufuneka uyenze le nto, Mphathiswa, ungayikhankanyi nje.
In 2007, 1 136 prisoners died in hospital. Of this number, 1 056 were classified as natural deaths and only 80 died of unnatural causes.
In 2007-08, 50 prisoners were released on medical parole, compared to 81 in 2006-07. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services raised concerns regarding the application of section 79. In their annual report for 2007-08, the Judicial Inspectorate states that they are of the view that the applicable statutory provisions of section 79 should be reviewed, together with the policy administration rules.
Based on the facts I have mentioned above, Cope wants to know what criteria were used to grant Shabir Shaik medical parole while many sick offenders are still in jail around the country. [Interjections.]
In conclusion, we as Cope believe that in order to ensure clean governance and to correctly prioritise the Minister's tasks for the next five years, the Minister must appoint a judicial commission of enquiry to look into the overall status of the department. I thank you. [Applause.]
Mr V B NDLOVU
Ms B C BLAAI
MNU V B NDLOVU: Sihlalo, Mhlonishwa, neSekela lakhe kanye neNdlu yonke.
The IFP welcomes the new Minister and the Deputy to this portfolio, where they will serve every South African, because not only does the department have the responsibility for the incarceration of 165 000 people, but also for protecting every one of us from the rehabilitated offenders, who will at some point re-enter society.
The IFP accepts that the prison population profile is changing, with more offenders serving long sentences, and bail being either unaffordable or denied to most awaiting-trial inmates. The prison population is growing, but the persistent problem of overcrowding is not addressed through this budget.
A key point has been made by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services. There would be no overcrowding if inmates didn't spend 23 hours a day unproductively locked up in cells. Cells should be used for sleeping only, while daylight hours are spent in meaningful work, literacy training and rehabilitation programmes.
The White Paper emphasises rehabilitation; the department emphasises rehabilitation; the joint cluster emphasises rehabilitation; civil society emphasises rehabilitation. In fact, the only document out of sync with this call is the budget.
The department has set its expenditure low for the year, intending to add a negligible number of offenders to already poorly populated skills development, production and literacy programmes. The National Commissioner has pointed out that legislation offers offenders an easy way out if they choose not to participate in such programmes. Legislation can be changed far more easily than on-the-ground realities.
How many inmates would volunteer to sit on the floor in the corridor and try to learn to read and write, if there was somebody available to teach them? How many can learn to bake bread, when there are just five bakeries across South Africa? How many can work in the one and only shoe factory, which is next to my house?
The President has warned that in this time of economic recession, every cent must be spent wisely and fruitfully. The department does not have an inspiring track record in this regard, with six successive qualified audit reports. However, the point is that the department must become more self-sufficient and less reliant on taxpayers' money.
It has been pointed out that inmates themselves could be staffing the kitchen, cutting the grass and cleaning up. Not only would this save in terms of contractors and the outsourcing of services, but it would also begin to impart a work ethic and a sense of usefulness.
USIHLALO WENDLU (Mnu K O Bapela): Mhlonishwa Ndlovu, zama ukuphetha inkulumo yakho.
Mnu V B NDLOVU: Siyabonga kakhulu, kuMhlonishwa, ukuthi aveze ukuthi konke okwenziwayo kwenziwa njengoba kufanele. Kusemqoka ukuthi lolu hlelo lokukhishwa kweziboshwa okuthiwa yi-parole. Mina angilwazi ngoba angikaze ngaboshwa, akufane kubo bonke abantu kungakhethi abantu, kungakhethi osibanibani kuye kosibanibani. Siyabona ukuthi iziboshwa nazo zinawo amalungelo kodwa akufuneki zibenawo ngaphezu kwalowo ohlukumezekile. Ngakho ke kufuneka kubhekisiswe umuntu ohlukumezekile kunaloyo oboshiwe. Ngiyabonga.
Ms W NGWENYA
Mr V B NDLOVU
Ms W NGWENYA: Ngiyabonga Sihlalo, ngibingele uNgqongqoshe neSekela lakhe, uMnyango wonke wokuLungiswa kweZimilo, amalunga onke ePhalamende …
… the media, ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends …
… ngingalibali ukubingelela umyeni wami, ohlale engisekile ngaso sonke isikhathi emsebenzini wami, ngiyabonga Doc. Sihlalo, lana ngizokhuluma ngohlelo lokulungiswa kwezimilo nenqubekela phambili yakhona.
The development programme provides programmes and assists with developing skills and social development competencies, including technical training, recreation and sports, education and the operation of prison farms and production workshops.
Kulolu hlelo ke lwezimali luka-2009-10, kunesamba semali esithe safakwa esiyi-R448,7 million. Lesi samba semali sahlulwe ngalolu hlobo.
Sixty-one percent of this programme in the budget is channelled toward the compensation of employees.
Lokhu-ke kwenzelwe ukuthi sihehe labo ababizwa ngochwepheshe kwezengqongo nakwezemfundo ukuze bakwazi ukubamba iqhaza kulo Mnyango Wezokulungiswa Kwezimilo. Lo Mnyango uye wabhekana nengqinamba enkulu yokweswela osochwepheshe abazokwazi ukuthi benze lo msebenzi. Okujabulisayo ukuthi le-OSD izokwazi ukubaheha bakwazi ukubamba iqhaza kulolu hlelo.
Ngithanda ukusho ukuthi ngisho i-Popcru izokwazi ukuthi ivumelane noMnyango ekutheni labo chwepheshe babekhona kuMnyango Wokulungiswa Kwezimilo. Noma ngabe lolu hlelo lufakiwe kepha kuyadabukisa ukuthola ukuthi ngo-2007-8, iziboshwa zaba yingcosana ezazibandakanya kulolu hlelo. Iziboshwa zaba ngu-17 474 kweziyi-113 171, lokho-ke kukhombisa isibalo esincane seziboshwa. Sezikhulumile-ke ezinye izikhulumi nozakwethu befakazela lokhu engikushoyo ukuthi iziboshwa eziningi azizange zizibandakanye ngendlela ugculisayo kulolu hlelo.
Sihlalo, ngikhuluma futhi nge Social Reintegration, lolu hlelo luhlinzekele iziboshwa. Okusho ukuthi kufanele bamukeleke emphakathini futhi nomphakathi ukwazi ukubemukela. Sihlalo, lolu hlelo lunikezwe isamba eziyigidi ezingamakhulu amane anamashumi amabili nesithupha zamarandi, R426 million. Kulesi samba sonyaka salonyaka esingayilinganisa nesamba esiwu 3,2% wesabiwomali sonke. Kumele sikhumbule ukuthi isabiwomali esibekelwe lolu hlelo kumele sikwazi ukulungiselela ukudedelwa kweziboshwa, ukusiza labo abaphuma ngeparoli ngokunjalo nalabo ababoshelwe ekhaya – lokhu esithi phecelezi i-Correctional Supervision.
Ngaleyo ndlela uHulumeni we-ANC uzokwenza ukuthi kubekhona izimbizo ezizokwenza ukuthi umphakathi ukwazi ukubamba iqhaza nokuthi sisonke siqondisise ukuthi iyini i-pharoli. Kumele ngisho ukuthi lolu hlelo lubaluleke kakhulu kabi ngoba kumele lusize nalabo abaphindaphindayo ukona njengoba wayeshilo uMongameli uMnumzane uZuma eNkulumeni yakhe Yokuvula iPhalamende. Kumele kubonakale ukuthi kukhona ukuzibophezelela nokuthi lesi sabiwomali salolu hlelo sizolungisa lezi zingqinamba zikaHulumeni.
Izinsiza eziningi kumele zibhekiswe ezinhlelweni zokusiza abantu abadedelwe ejele ukuze bakwazi ukubuyela emphakathini lapho sebededelwe. Ngithanda ukuchaza ukuthi lolu hlelo luzosiza ngoba sibonile ukuthi abantu abakwazi ukubuyela kahle emiphakathini uma bephuma emajele ngoba abantu babuye babesabe. Ngakho-ke lolu hlelo luzosiza ukwenza imisebenzi enjalo. Kuzobaluleka ukuthi lolu hlelo lwethulwe njengoba ne-White Paper ikubeka ngokucacile kungabikho kungqubuzana uma ithi ukulungisa kuwumsebenzi …
USIHLALO (Mnu M R Mdakane): Mhlonishwa, zama ukuphetha inkulumo yakho.
Ms W NGWENYA: Sihlalo, lolu hlelo luzozama ukusiza nabasuke bengabenziwa ukuthi bangaboni umenzi ephuma bengamazi ukuthi uphuma kanjani, ngakho-ke lolu hlelo luzosiza ukuthi nabo balibambe iqhaza ngokuthi bazi uma ngabe isiboshwa sesizophuma, isibonelo, uMark Scott wabonakala ephuma kepha umenziwa engazi ukuthi uyaphuma noma iparoli. Phela abantu abaningi abazi ukuthi yinile paroli, silwane sini lesi esikhuluma ngaso; ngakho-ke lolu hlelo luzosiza lapho. Ngiyabonga. [Ihlombe.]
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon members, there is a request that those who are not using interpretation devices, should switch them off. They are interfering – they make it very difficult for our system to work.
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES
Ms W NGWENYA
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: Chairperson, hon Minister of the Department of Correctional Services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the chairperson of the portfolio committee Mr Vincent Smith, Ministers and Deputy Ministers from sister departments, hon members of the House, our National Commissioner Ms Xoliswa Sibeko, management and officials from correctional centres in our midst, representatives of nongovernmental organizations and other civil society formations, distinguished guests already acknowledged by the Minister, my husband Pat Mkhize sitting in front of me, ladies and gentlemen, in my introduction I would like to say that it is indeed an honour and a privilege to stand in front of this august House to deliver my maiden speech as Deputy Minister of Correctional Services.
This is a fascinating phase in our growing democracy, characterised by a successfully concluded fourth democratic election, with unprecedented numbers, which gave this administration a resounding vote of confidence and a mandate to continue with the transformation agenda.
Chairperson, allow me to add my voice in extending a word of appreciation and gratitude to the previous Minister, Minister Ngconde Balfour, and Deputy Minister Loretta Jacobus, for their contribution in accelerating the transformation of Correctional Services, as well as to all correctional officials, particularly those managing our correctional centres on a daily basis. I also want to extend the same sentiments to all NGOs in our midst here which operate within our correctional centres and ensure the smooth reintegration of our offenders into communities.
From the onset, I have to put the challenge and the task at hand in its context. We are facing our own history of the apartheid system, which was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations as far back as 1948. The apartheid system led to the breakdown of the African family unit, and the loss of community values and the spirit of ubuntu. The long-term generational consequences of the said state-orchestrated violence is illustrated by numbers of young people who are continuously in conflict with the law.
The Correctional Services Act of 1998 and the White Paper of 2005 are critical pillars of our new agenda. These instruments have laid a firm foundation for a correctional system within an ethical framework which protects the integrity of our processes. The most important of these is respect for the inherent human dignity - as emphasised by the chairperson of our portfolio committee - of all human beings, irrespective of their personal or social status.
We are presenting aspects of the Budget Vote at a time when the department is resolved to intensify implementation. It is our firm belief that the South African society should begin to reap the fruits of the promises of the White Paper. Hon Selfe, you will be happy to note that it is our resolve to focus on the implementation of the promise of the White Paper. Some of the aspects that I've taken from Minister focus specifically on the promise of the White Paper for the people of South Africa.
This shift in policy inculcates a new culture and mindset, by placing the victim at the centre of the concept of restorative justice. The world learned an important lesson from the truth and reconciliation process, that a lot more can be achieved through the restoration of the dignity of the other than through vindictiveness.
Our new paradigm is based on the premise that victims should remain at the centre of the criminal justice system. The Victims Charter balances the scales of justice and ensures that our work with offenders does not compromise our duty and responsibilities towards victims. It emphasises our commitment to put the needs of victims at the heart of the criminal justice system. In this regard, the implementation framework, that is, offender detention, classification, rehabilitation and social integration programmes, are influenced by our determination to break the cycle of recidivism.
Classification of offenders on admission is a critical step in the processing of devising effective rehabilitation programmes. Classification categories become an objective instrument through which to measure corrections and development of inmates. For instance, in the case of repeat offenders, our specialists will have to account in cases of frequent occurrences of serious crimes, such as sexual crimes and murder. As things stand today, we can trace patterns of classification by category of offence, such as: Children in conflict with the law, young women and the crimes that they are accused of and incarcerated for, murders by women, cash-in-transit heists and armed robbery, and so on.
Coming back to offender rehabilitation, I challenge all correctional officials to live to up to the spirit of the White Paper. Approach your work with commitment, diligence and integrity, with zero tolerance for corruption. We commend you for choosing to work with men and women who are deprived of their liberty, many of whom have committed serious crimes. We rely on you to transfer the values and skills of good citizenry, so as to ensure that they return to society as socially responsible and law-abiding citizens.
Having placed rehabilitation at the centre of all activities, we will continue to strike a balance between safe custody and rehabilitation – but certainly we have an intention to make a clear shift from emphasis on security aspects only. I will call upon the offenders to seize opportunities afforded to them with both hands and begin the journey towards self-correction and regain their liberty. To support this call, elements of the White Paper have been translated into the Offender Rehabilitation Path, which illustrates the journey of an offender from the point of entering the correctional facility to the point of reintegration into society.
Correctional Services has adopted a unit management approach, which focuses on the direct supervision of offenders, whereby each inmate will be allocated to case officers. With the new approach, each inmate is the focal point. This new approach tracks the individual offender so that they are not lost in the system. The path of the offender is monitored until reintegration is complete.
I think our Minister has spoken about strengthening our interventions to fight HIV and Aids, with special emphasis on what we intend to do with our specialists, psychologists and psychiatrists, so as to supplement medical care and ensure that there is also value-based education while people are within our centres. But, of course, as the Minister has indicated, we are in consultation with all experts and we'll be able to report the outcomes of our consultation in due course.
Concerning rehabilitation challenges, any therapist who has ever devised a rehabilitation programme will talk about prerequisites which are essential for interventions to be effective. For the purpose of this Budget Vote, I will be the first to admit that current challenges have too many confounding variables. These have to do with overcrowding; the ill-preparedness of our officials to be caretakers of the rehabilitation programmes as against custodial carers; the high levels of illiteracy amongst our offenders; the conspiracy of silence on the magnitude of dysfunctional families; moral degeneration in society, including the diminishing spirit of ubuntu; and lack of compassion – as you have seen and learnt about some of the crimes that are committed amongst our people. For example, on the question of overcrowding, our bed capacity, as has been said, is about 115 000 against an inmate population of 165 000. This represents a 42% overcrowding, which has a negative impact on morale, provision of services and security.
Regarding special categories of offenders, the White Paper has made provision for a needs-based rehabilitation approach – as I've indicated above – which implies that offenders are not a uniform entity. There are different categories, such as women, children, awaiting-trial detainees, young offenders, persons with disabilities and the elderly.
Coming to women, Chairperson, I'm saddened to announce to this House that just yesterday I accompanied the Minister to the Pollsmoor Correctional Centre, where we came face to face with the difficulties experienced by infants, children and women in correctional centres. Much as we acknowledge the fact that some of them have broken the law, the majority of them come from extremely difficult socioeconomic conditions. What touched us most was the reality of seeing infants paying the price, and young children below the age of two growing up within incarceration centres with limited exposure to early childhood development programmes, which are a foundation that takes people throughout their life path.
Our biggest challenge is that our facilities – as hon members have said – were never designed to address the special needs of women. Our aim is to turn the situation around, working hand in hand with gender experts in the community, to address facilities and programmes and to seek alternative forms of serving a sentence.
The international protocols are clear about the need to avoid imprisonment of women unless it is a measure of absolute last resort, and I believe that we have not fully explored these options as a nation. Moreover, our facilities where never designed to address the needs of women and other special categories of offenders, including children and people with disabilities. Changing our facilities and implementing diversion programmes by working in collaboration with society, accepting this approach, are key areas of delivery in this regard. A framework for realising these goals is expected to be finalised as soon as possible.
The issue of very small babies in correctional facilities requires particularly sensitive consideration. Currently, there are 151 infants between nought and two years old within our correctional centres. The Correctional Services Act makes provision for keeping children up to the age of two years with their incarcerated mothers in our correctional facilities. Our turnaround strategy will include collaboration with experts in the field and will ensure that early childhood development programmes are introduced. All interventions will be aimed at ensuring that their environment is rendered normal as soon as this can be done.
To address the plight of infants in our correctional centres, our department will soon launch a campaign aimed at the social integration of these infants. In this regard, we are inviting communities, religious organisations, civil society at large, and private sector companies to join us in establishing a sustainable network towards this just cause. All our efforts should be geared towards achieving what is in the best interests of the child.
According to recent statistics there were 860 sentenced children, females – the number of females is also gradually increasing - and about 803 unsentenced children in our facilities, as at March 2009. A report released in September by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission blames the lack of a systematic and uniform criminal justice system for failure to protect children in conflict with the law. It is our belief that the Child Justice Bill will begin to shed light on how best to approach this problem.
The above incidence remains our shame. This remains the case even though our icon, Mr Nelson Mandela, as far back as 1993, upon receiving his Noble Peace Prize, said, "It is a matter of shame and serious concern that many children in our country are idling in our prisons and police stations."
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Madakane): Order, hon Minister. Try to conclude.
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: The interdepartmental task team driving the process of removing children from the centres will intensify their work, in keeping with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In conclusion, I'd like to emphasise the aspects of community izimbizos. We are in discussions with the portfolio committee on how to reach out to communities and try to establish community correctional forums, so that there can be a partnership in terms of making sure that those who are released are integrated back into society. As we approach this great challenge, let us pause and reflect on the words of President Zuma during his maiden state of the nation address, when he called on all of us to focus on that which makes us human. The President further urged us to develop a shared value system, based on the spirit of community solidarity and caring. Thank you. [Applause.]
Mr S N SWART
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES
Mr S N SWART: Chairperson, the ACDP clearly understands that as there is an increased focus on fighting crime with additional resources to police, detectives, prosecutors and courts, Correctional Services will be on the receiving end of this process, as more people are arrested and convicted.
Clearly, therefore, additional staff and resources must then be given to Correctional Services. And we have seen the results of under-resourcing as it comes to overcrowding of our prisons, and it seems to be a refrain every year. Every year since I have been on the committee, since 1999, overcrowding remains a serious problem. It is 42% now, and is the root cause of health problems and the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, and needs to be seriously addressed.
It is also disturbing that not only has the number of awaiting-trial detainees increased but that 70% of them do not receive bail, and therefore cannot be diverted. Now, the ACDP has previously said that sections 63(a) and 62(f) of the Criminal Procedure Act must continuously be applied - and I request the Minister to look into this - to release those particular awaiting-trial prisoners who are being detained at huge state expense and who do not present a danger to society. We are pleased that the Minister has announced the bail protocol in this regard, and, serving also on the justice committee, we'll definitely also look into that area.
The ACDP is also very concerned with the highest recidivism rate, 94%. Clearly the department is not succeeding in its offender rehabilitation and attention must be given to this aspect.
We fully support the proposal that prisoners must work and obtain skills so that rehabilitation can be assisted. We also need to support the Minister on the Child Justice Act. I have advocated that for many years. It is now an Act, and portfolio committee members need to make sure that it is implemented; children must not be in prison.
To conclude, whilst there are many and varied challenges facing the department, I would like to congratulate the Minister and thank all those dedicated staff members for their committed and hard work in the department, as I have done since 1999. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Mr N B FIHLA
Mr S N SWART
Mr N B FIHLA: Chairperson, hon Ministers, Deputy Ministers and hon members, firstly, I just want to remind the prophets of doom of the words by Mark Antony. He said in Julius Caesar that "the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with" the Ministers.
In our democracy, we have reached a point where treating inmates with respect is increasingly being seen as an important part of the breaking of the cycle of crime. Ignoring the rights and plight of offenders and those who are incarcerated is seen as counterproductive, since a hostile environment in prison can lead to further antisocial behaviour and bitterness towards society and authority structures. Rehabilitation, as a policy of our democratic government, is a process of assisting offenders spiritually and psychologically to understand the disorder their actions created, not only for themselves and their victims, but for humanity as a whole. It also becomes important that the community be involved in the rehabilitation process.
The state has a duty to maintain public order and promote the common good, while at the same time respecting the rights of prisoners. The government and Members of Parliament, both from the majority party and the opposition parties, support the introduction of restorative justice and the further allocation of resources to rehabilitation as an important way of breaking the spiralling cycle of crime in South Africa.
According to an expert, that there are some unhealthy conditions in South Africa's prisons, is not something new. There are many problems that face the South African penal system, but the root problem is not simply one of crime or overcrowding, as some have suggested, but is found on a variety of levels. To ascribe one cause, for example a lack of resources, overcrowding or poverty as the root of the problem, is too simplistic.
The conditions in South African prisons are a major contributing factor to the general crime situation in the country, but to leave it at that would be to miss the larger picture.
Poverty, the effects of apartheid and the attitude of society towards prisoners and former inmates, all contribute to the high repeat-offender rates and the lack of successful reintegration into our community.
South Africa is gradually moving towards a violent society. The brutalising effects of apartheid are felt throughout our communities, from the high incidence of abuse and rape to robbery and hijackings, South Africans are confronted by this evidence, either through personal experience or through the media.
The new generation prisons, which are able to facilitate the unit management cells, are a model to be copied. We would have liked the Department of Public Works to fast-track the construction of these five new generation prisons to provide some relief for overcrowding. The two public-private prisons, one in the Free State and the other one in Limpopo, are models of prisons. The unfortunate thing is that they only concentrate on training long-term inmates. We would have advised them that it would be necessary that they take the youths that are loitering in prison to go and get some training there, instead of the long-term servers, lifers, people who are going to stay there for many years. Those skills will end up in prison, rather than going to the youth, so that when they go out, they go with some skills. That is what we are proposing.
There is a move from prisons in all provinces to encourage all inmates to participate in some kind of work. There are a number of workshops for inmates in almost all the provinces, for training in building, brick-making, plumbing, carpentry, electricity, mechanics, upholstery, sewing, etc. These skills would be of great help to the inmates when they are released from prison. The unfortunate thing is that they are not in all prisons in South Africa; they are in some areas but in others there are not enough facilities so that all prisoners could get training and skills.
There is also the question of preventing serious offenders from moving from prison to court, because that is always the time when they escape. We are suggesting that there should be courts in prisons for serious offenders, so that they are sentenced there in prison, instead of going out. That project has started; there is one, for instance, in St Albans prison, and I think there is another one in Goodwood prison, where magistrates and even judges come to the prison.
We are saying that there must be more of these types of courts in all the big maximum security prisons throughout South Africa. We are encouraging that.
I will never forget a statement that was made in New Zealand. The Minister of Justice was asking, why is there no overcrowding in your prisons? They said no, "We do not keep an inmate who has committed a minor offence in prison." That is the statement he put to us. "We do not keep an inmate who has committed a minor offence in prison. It is only serious offenders who stay in prison." That was what he said. He told us that out of 26 000 people who have been sentenced, only 6 000 stay in prison; 20 000 are out of prison.
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Order! Hon member, try to wrap up.
Mr N B FIHLA: We are also suggesting that youths should be totally separated from adult prisoners because, once they go to prison, they graduate in crime. That is the problem in South Africa. We are also saying that first-time offenders must not be kept together with habitual criminals; there must be a separate section in the prison. We are also saying that the style of the new generation prisons, which have unit management, should be copied in constructing all prisons in South Africa, because that is where rehabilitation can be effectively effected. Thank you very much. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Mr A T FRITZ
Mr N B FIHLA
Mr A T FRITZ: Chairperson, I want to use this opportunity to greet all my former colleagues from the Department of Correctional Services, and also to greet the Inspecting Judge of Prisons, Justice Van Zyl, as well as Justice Desai.
For the past ten years I have had the opportunity, as the Chief Inspector of Prisons, to visit most prisons in South Africa. I would always be amazed, upon coming to Parliament, to hear what the Minister had to say. I say this with the utmost respect. We heard what the new Minister said in Parliament today. It is far removed from reality. We are living a little pipe dream.
I want to urge you to pay serious and urgent attention to the realities of prisons, in prison and at prison level. I think we can go on forever making as if some of those realities do not exist, but they do, Minister and Deputy Minister.
I want to start by saying to the Minister that, sadly, it seems as if she has inherited a department which is in crisis. I think one must first acknowledge that. The Department of Correctional Services – and everyone has said this – has received qualified audits for the better part of the last century and this century. [Laughter.]
Corruption is systemic throughout the department. Sexual violence and assault in our correctional centres are rife. Staff morale is at an all time low and the management team lives in denial. That management team probably wrote your speech. [Laughter.]
Whenever this department appears before the Select Committee on Public Accounts or the Auditor-General, its management team comes up with all the excuses in the book. Every year we are told about these turnaround strategies that they are going to start implementing to improve things.
However, Minister, it is already written in the history books of this country that the Department of Correctional Services has, since the democratisation of South Africa, continued to slip deeper and deeper into the darkness of corruption and mismanagement. The Jali Commission reports attest to that.
Minister, I asked you how you can expect this Parliament to approve a budget that spends R36 million per day on inmates in South Africa, while so many hungry children, uncared for sick people and millions of unemployed get no assistance from us. Minister, you have really not convinced us that these large amounts of money should be allocated to this department, considering its poor track record and lack of financial controls.
There is a saying that if you throw more money at a problem, all you get is a better-resourced problem; you don't remove the problem. [Laughter.] Of course, hon members in this House who are intellectually deficient won't be able to cope with me! Let me continue. This is exactly what Correctional Services has become: a better-resourced problem. The increase from R3,5 billion in 1997-98 to more than R13 billion this year is a significant increase. [Interjections.] Unfortunately, again, some of those in the peanut gallery don't understand some of this stuff. It is very difficult to deal with them.
Correctional Services has failed to address the problem ... [Interjections.]
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Order! Hon member, I am trying to assist you.
Mr A T FRITZ: But I don't get your protection, Chair.
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Order! Let us allow the member to be heard today.
Mr A T FRITZ: Correctional Services has failed to address any problems which existed in the department 10 years ago – these problems continue to exist. Instead, the department continues to waste taxpayers' money on private catering and nutrition contracts, big-screen television sets in cells and handing out security contracts under very suspicious circumstances. [Interjections.]
Last year the media reported on a significant drop … [Interjections.]
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakana): Is the hon member prepared to take a question?
Mr A T FRITZ: Not from intellectually deficient people, Chair. No, we don't have time. Can I continue, Chair?
Mnr P M MATHEBE: Jy het tyd om te droom!
[You have time to dream!]
Mr A T FRITZ: Jou probleem is dat jy nie kán droom nie! [Gelag.]
[Your problem is that you are unable to dream! [Laughter.]]
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Mind your time.
Mr A T FRITZ: Last week, the media reported on a significant drop in the level of self-sufficiency in the department. They are specifically talking about the 23 hours that prisoners and inmates spend aimlessly in their cells or wandering aimlessly down the corridors. This is the reason for the high levels of gang activity in our centres. Keep the inmates busy with a constructive way of contributing to their own upkeep and to society's needs. In the process, that will help with rehabilitation.
Minister, may I offer you some advice? [Interjections.] Please surround yourself with intellectually competent people, not people like your fellow members here. [Laughter.] Ensure that you are kept informed on a daily basis of what is happening on the ground. I am telling you, there are many members here who will attest to and support what I am saying. Please be informed of what's happening …
Mr Z LUYENGE: Hon Chair, on a point of order: The hon member is making a very unscientific statement by saying that this department is full of officials who are incompetent.
Mr A T FRITZ: Correction, Mr Chair, the hon members are deficient.
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon member, the member has raised a point of order. It seems you are very enthusiastic to answer him. The point that has been raised is that you said that some of the members are intellectually challenged.
Mr A T FRITZ: Chair, I said "deficient", not challenged.
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon member, let us just be parliamentary, to avoid a lot of problems. You can raise your issues in the manner you want to raise them, but we should try not to attack people's integrity. You have seconds to conclude.
Mr V B NDLOVU: Chairperson, I rise on a point of order.
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon Ndlovu?
Mnu V B NDLOVU: Cha Sihlalo, ngibona sengathi akufanele ukuthi amalungu ahlasele abantu abangale, ngoba abakwazi ukuziphendulela.
They can't defend themselves. You see, we are members here; we should be talking to each other, not to the officials, because they can't respond. That is the rule of this House. I am just responding.
USIHLALO (Mnu M R Mdakane): Mhlonishwa, uNdlovu. UMhlonishwa ubekhuluma ngathi thina esikhona lapha. Ubengakhulumi ngeMinyango kahulumeni. Mhlonishwa! Phetha.
Mr A T FRITZ: Again, just for the record, I was not referring to the officials; I was referring to my colleagues here.
I want to conclude by saying that there are incredibly many officials in the Department of Correctional Services who are incredibly competent and committed staff members. Please, Madam Minister, draw on their expertise and involve those competent and noncorrupt members. I thank you, Chair.
Ms M N MDAKA
Mr A T FRITZ
Ms N M MDAKA: Chairperson, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, hon members, the department and guests, I greet you all.
Hon Fritz, you are surprising me today! When we are in the committee, we speak the same language, but now you want to impress the public. Why are you lying to the public today? You are lying, hon Fritz! [Interjections.] No, I am not going to accept that. You do not talk in the committee as you were talking now.
Ms D KOHLER-BARNARD: Chairperson, on a point of order: I believe the hon member just referred to my colleague as a liar. I would like her to withdraw that, please.
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): A ruling has been made on this matter, that it is unparliamentary. We shouldn't even waste our time.
Ms D KOHLER-BARNARD: Chair, could she please withdraw the statement?
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon Mdaka, withdraw the unparliamentary language.
Ms N M MDAKA: I withdraw it, Chairperson.
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Continue, hon member.
Ms N M MDAKA: Chairperson, the Security Programme provides for safe and healthy conditions for all persons incarcerated, consistent with human dignity, and thereby provides security for personnel and the public. This programme has been allocated an amount of R4,4 billion for this financial year, which translates to 33,4% of the total budget. It is worth noting that 98% of this programme's budget is channelled towards compensation of employees. The allocation for this programme has been increased by 5,95% as compared to the 2008‑09 allocation.
We acknowledge that with this budget, the department intends to erect eight additional high-security fences and install biometric access control systems at eight correctional centres.
Talking about biometric access control reminds me of the recent expiry of the Sondolo IT contract with the Department of Correctional Services. Since the contract expired in April 2009, there have been concerns over security at the country's correctional centres. However, the department has assured the public that all is under control and that they have advertised 600 positions for staff to operate the security system.
Sondolo IT, a subsidiary of Bosasa, was awarded a contract in April 2006 to supply and operate hitech closed circuit television monitors at 66 correctional centres in the country. The contract between Sondolo IT and the Department of Correctional Services for a period of four years has cost the department over R250 million. This is the reason why the Security Programme of the department was allocated more funds over these years. For instance, in 2006-07 the Security Programme had a huge stake of the department's budget, amounting to R3,3 billion. Again, in 2007-08 and 2008-09 this programme was allocated R3,2 billion and R3,9 billion, respectively.
It is unfortunate that the department did not train officials on the operation of this security system to take over when this contract expires. That is very unfortunate. [Interjections.] Unfortunate, yes. [Interjections.] Listen! Stop calling the Minister. Listen, now! The Minister is not Jesus on the cross. Listen, carefully!
The question on everybody's lips is: What is happening with this security system at the moment? That is the question. [Interjections.] Let me answer you now. We hope that the department has everything under control to prevent incidents such as the escape of Annanias Mathe and many others from correctional centres, including the awaiting-trial inmate Jean Claude LaCote from Johannesburg Correctional Centre. [Interjections.]
We acknowledge and recommit our faith in our judicial system for the conviction of Mathe … [Interjections.]
Ni mamele, ke!
[You must listen, then!]
… on 64 charges including rape, malicious damage to property and housebreaking. We also acknowledge the conviction of Correctional Services officials who killed four inmates at Krugersdorp Correctional Centre.
We acknowledge that the rate of escapes from correctional centres has dropped significantly. In 2007-08, the department recorded 79 escapes from correctional centres, as compared to 112 escapes in 2005-06. [Laughter.] Therefore, escapes are going to be far fewer than these 79 escapes, because this committee is here to work, not to play marbles, especially the ANC members in this committee. This can be ascribed to various measures implemented by the department, including Operation Vala - Baba Ndlovu, including Operation Vala! Maybe you don't know about Operation Vala, because you never attended our portfolio committee meetings - upgrading of personnel training; taking disciplinary actions against negligent personnel; and continued evaluation of security directives.
The ANC supports Budget Vote No 18. I thank you. [Applause.]
The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M R Mdakane): Hon members, I think we are aware that this debate was allocated 120 minutes, two hours, by the programming committee. Hon members have been very kind and used only 111 minutes. The Whips have agreed that they will give the nine minutes to the hon Minister to reply. Hon Minister, they are very kind and they giving you more time. [Applause.]
The MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES
Ms M N MDAKA
The MINISTER OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: Thank you very much, Chairperson, and thanks to hon members for allowing me an opportunity to respond.
Starting with the Petersen matter, which has been raised by both hon Selfe and hon Blaai, I think we should now accept that we have a Commissioner. How the Commissioner arrived and landed in the Department of Correctional Services is another matter. There was a process within government which ensured that there was a swopping of two directors-general, one deployed to Sport and the other to Correctional Services, and now she is the Commissioner in the Department of Correctional Services. I want to appeal that we don't start on that note, but rather look at what it is that she is bringing to the department. [Applause.]
The government has a redeployment policy and if it doesn't work, the President will have to see what to do, because he appointed her. I just thought I needed to clarify that from the onset.
The second matter is the matter of Mr Shabir Shaik. Can I just indicate that with regard to parole issues - and this is not the only parole issue - as the Minister who has taken over from my predecessor, I wouldn't want to find myself in a situation where I have to review decisions of my predecessor. [Interjections.] Just allow me, Sir, to continue. If you provide me with compelling evidence which says to me "review", we will review. But where there are no compelling reasons provided to the Minister, it becomes difficult for the Minister to review a parole decision.
I have also interacted, I must say with due respect, with Judge Desai. We've discussed. We've engaged. Yes, the matter has been in the media and it has been controversial. However, there hasn't been any advice given to the Minister that there should be a review. As you know, with regard to issues of parole, the Minister is advised to review or to take whatever decision is necessary.
In the case of Shabir Shaik, I hope we can close this matter so that we can look forward, look to the future and look at all the other cases which are coming our way, which the Minister may actually have to come and present to the portfolio committee.
I am glad you are talking about other people dying. It is as though you didn't listen when I said one of the things I've already directed should be done, is to look at issues of policy with regard to medical parole, precisely because there is no medical parole in this country, right? Yes, of course, there is no medical parole. If you are a member of the portfolio committee, you would know that there is no medical parole. There is no medical parole and therefore there is a need for us to have a medical parole. What we have in place is for a person who is terminally ill to be released from prison. So, it doesn't cater for all the other categories of people who are sitting in prison and are dying. It is in law. It has nothing to do with the parole board or even with the Minister. So, you help us amend, so that we can produce a policy and assist Judge Desai. I think he is here and he will be very glad to listen to your input.
The third matter is that of food nutrition and the Sondolo contract. That, too, as you know, is a matter which is under investigation. I am sure you are aware that the Special Investigating Unit is working with the Department of Correctional Services, amongst others, to investigate these matters. Can we await the outcome of the investigation? Standing here as the Minister, I have been in office for only six weeks and I have not been briefed as yet by the SIU about what is likely to come out of that investigation. Once the report comes out, again, I'll come back to Members of Parliament, through the portfolio committee, to give that report.
On the issue of repeat offending, colleagues, I think that we should use this opportunity to appeal to society to assist us with regard to this particular matter. It cannot be a problem of the Department of Correctional Services, it cannot be a problem of government and it cannot be a problem of the NGOs. It is a societal challenge.
Yesterday we met young girls, as the Deputy Minister said. There was an 18-year-old. She's been there and she is now there for the second time for swiping credit cards; others of the same age for drug-trafficking, etc. They were manipulated by boyfriends who are part of gangs. This group was between 16 and 20. If you have young girls of 16, 17 and 18 years who are likely to do a second time in prison – these are awaiting-trial detainees, by the way – it is a call to society to do something about the challenges which we have in our society.
What I have picked up is that the majority of those children are from dysfunctional families. There's no mother, no father, or father is married to another woman or there's a drinking problem at home. These are societal problems. Indeed, the President is correct to say that we need to forge partnerships to ensure that government and civil society work together to deal with these problems.
The other issue which we raised earlier on is of inmates who come out of prison. Of course, they have a criminal record and they are not likely to get jobs anywhere. And once they don't get jobs, they get frustrated and the only way for them to survive is to go back to prison.
And of course, going back to prison, there is a whole community there. I find that prison is a whole community living in its own world. So they go back to the community where they are going to be accepted, rather than stay in a community where they are rejected. So, our responsibility with regard to social reintegration, all of us, is to ensure that these people find jobs and utilise the skills which they have benefited from prison.
On the video link, hon member Fihla mentioned the creation of courts in prison. I am sure, hon member, as one of the oldest members of the committee, you are also aware that there are no courts in prisons. But there is currently a process which has been introduced through the justice, crime prevention and security review process of video linkages between our courts and some of our correctional centres. Obviously, we'll not be able to cover all the centres at the beginning, but I think it is a step in the right direction. This will help prisoners who are still standing trial and who are on remand - who shouldn't be going to prison – and those who are not allowed to leave the premises and go to courts. So the video link is a step in the right direction.
Then of course there is the matter of the call for youths to be separated from adults. Yes, that is one of the standing rules. Young people serve in their own facilities; children serve in their own facilities. But of course, in some areas you may find a situation where a child is actually serving with adults. One of the matters I raised in my speech, if you remember, was that of people who are mentally disturbed, who are serving with people who are very normal, who are very criminal, under very difficult conditions. Imagine the abuse they must be subjected to. That applies to children; it applies to people living with disability.
I am not saying people living with disability should not serve their sentences, but I am sure there is something that can be done. One cannot expect that a blind man should serve in the same cell with 140 to 150 people and hope that there will be no abuse in the process.
So there are certain things we need to do to try and correct the situation at the facilities. I am glad that all of us seem to speak with the same voice on issues of labour, that inmates must work. Whether in terms of the Correctional Services Act they should have a choice as to which job they want to engage in, is a matter you must help us deal with. It is my view that they must work. That they must have a right of where to work, is a matter which all of us must look into by amending the Correctional Services Act.
Of course, there would have to be engagement as well with other stakeholders, such as unions and so on, because I am aware that in the past there used to be a problem of unions feeling that inmates were taking their jobs. My view is that they should plough back into society. If there is no school in an area where a correctional centre is situated, there is nothing preventing us from having them doing other work. This is for purposes of skills development, artisan skills, but also ploughing back into society and to show society that they regret what they did – restorative justice. There is a whole lot of progress I believe we can make.
I am concluding. I also learnt that with regard to this repeat offending, the majority of the people who are serving sentences are not visited by their families. I am told that plus-minus 26% is visited, but the majority of families don't visit; obviously, because families, society is angry. But equally there are problems regarding the visitors' areas, as those in the portfolio committee may be aware. It is our responsibility, through our constituencies, to go and mobilise societies to go and visit their families so that they look forward to going out and leaving the prison walls, rather than staying in prison and becoming part of the gangs.
Thank you very much for your support with the budget. I nearly said I didn't understand half of the things you were saying because you were so emotional! But certainly, we have to spend some money, but we can equally save by making sure that we prevent incidents of crime. Our problem has been that we have not been preventing crime. It has happened, it happens and we take people through the process of courts and we send them to correctional centres. Thank you, hon members. Thanks for the constructive debate to all of you, and thanks very much, Mr Selfe. [Applause.]
The Committee rose at 18:30.
END OF TAKE
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